Books, news, & views from Karen Traviss

Butter. This really is about butter.

Happy New Year, folks. I hope 2019 brings all you wish for.

Anyway, I've been updating my blog over at Goodreads, but I've been a bit remiss over here. To bring you up to speed:

* I've finished THE BEST OF US, the first of my Galaxy's Edge NOMAD books, and it's now busy acquiring a cover. A lot more to follow on that very soon. I'm back to working on SACRIFICIAL RED again, and also the second of the NOMAD trilogy. I'm pretty much returned to my normal schedule after the ups and downs of the last couple of years, so there'll be a steadier supply of books for you from now on.

* I also posted this
tribute to a good friend who passed away.

Anyway, what really prompted me to blog today was something totally unconnected with books, although not entirely. As most of you probably know, I do love to cook, and I especially like preserving and fermenting, so I was tweeting today about making butter out of cream that I hadn't managed to use by its expiry date. Tonight I made another batch from a jar of cultured cream that didn't look like it was going to get used, but this time I remembered to take pics stage by stage. And it's too much to post on Twitter. The reason this is related to writing is that taking a break to do something else that's creative – be it cooking, crafting, carpentry, or art – is a good way to release your subconscious brain to sort out those plot problems and other issues that need to mulch in the mind.

If you've never made your own butter with a culture, it's the easiest thing imaginable, and if you don't mind a few minutes' hard work you can do it all by hand. No mixer or churning device required. (You can shake it in a jar, too, but I find that impossible once the cream's set.) This really is just supermarket double (heavy) cream cultured with a teaspoonful of plain yoghurt. I make that as well, but you can use any plain live yoghurt as a starter. Then I leave it on the counter overnight or longer. You can also culture it in a proper yoghurt-maker, but I just did it the low tech way this time. You can also culture cream with kefir, proper buttermilk culture, or whatever other milk culture you happen to have on hand. Yoghurt seems to be the easiest to find for most people. For some reason, it doesn't seem to matter whether I use a room temperature yoghurt (mesophilic) or a thermophilic one that needs an incubator (which is the plain yoghurt you get in shops) because both work if I just leave the cream on the counter. I'm still working out the microbiology behind that.

The cream. This is already soured by a yoghurt culture.


2. Start beating it, by hand if you prefer. I find the cream separates more easily when it's at room temperature. This batch was chilled, and it was a lot more work.


3. Eventually, it'll start going grainy…


4. …then it'll start to form a ball…


5. And after that it'll suddenly "turn" and separate into butter solids and buttermilk.


6. Pour off the buttermilk. Great for scones, soda bread, or drinking.


7. Yep, it's definitely butter now.


8. Knead the lump of butter in cold water. I do it under a running tap. This gets the last of the buttermilk out so that it keeps longer. It's a weird sensation, but just keep doing it for a couple of minutes, then drain the butter, and knead in salt to taste if you want it salted. (And I do.) If you overdo the salt, you can wash it out again the same way you washed out the buttermilk in cold water. Isn't that cool?


9 And there it is. Fresh cultured butter. Keep it in the fridge for a few weeks, or freeze it. Way better than the commercial stuff. Delicious. I never used to like butter, but home-made is a different story.